The details are irrelevant, but through providence I had the opportunity to engage another unknown gentleman from across the nation in a civil and thoughtful debate on the validity of the Bible. From the initial contact, we couldn’t disagree any more. Was he an atheist? No, he is a professing Christian and the lead singer of a popular Christian band.
It’s one thing to simply differ on doctrinal issues. You say old earth and I say young earth. You say Arminius and I say Calvin. You say pre-trib and I say pre-wrath. These debates within the Christian church are as old as time. Very few Christians will line up precisely on every issue. At times we might even have wholesale disagreements in regards to what the Scriptures really say about various matters.
Yet we’ve been able to reasonably settle these debates by cracking open our Bibles. We come to the Word with the common agreement that the Bible is God’s authoritative means to communicate with His people. We collectively hold to an eternal truth and adhere to honest exegesis that humbly “goes where the Scripture goes.” The debate is centered on “what does the Bible say?” Even if we disagree, our dispute is objectively based and the doctrinal “hills to die on” are clearly defined.
The rules have changed. Welcome to the brave new world!
My friend in our correspondence hit the nail on the head when he said, “My issues aren’t as much exegetical as they are hermeneutical.” In other words, he does not hold the conviction that views Scripture as the final authority. He holds the conviction that views “Scripture, Reason and Tradition [as the] 3-legged stool on which the church stands.” Therefore the undergirding assumption is that the Bible contains errors, and it is the reader’s responsibility when studying the Bible to differentiate the truth from the error. Even he admits that it’s “not always easy to find the actual truth behind biblical stories or passages.”
I spent some time pondering his response and investigating the prominent leaders in this so-called “emergent church” movement. For weeks I contemplated the best way to respond. Rather than provide a defense for inerrancy, I approached it from a logical and devotional perspective without compromising my view that the Bible is without error in representing the absolute and eternal truth of God.
- Like most people, I have experienced significant trials in my life. What has gotten me through them all was God, but specifically the confidence I had in the Word of God. When I approach the Word in these times of crisis, I don’t have to seek the “actual truth” behind the passages. I believe God loves me and in His love has clearly communicated His Word to me. Therefore I can take biblical passages at face value – no different than the way I communicate to my children. If that were not the case, what hope would I really have? I’d forever wonder if a particular verse was really from the Lord. I’d hesitate to believe God would really fulfill that promise if indeed that promise were not inspired. I’d question if God changed His mind, or even worse, lied. An ounce of doubt in this regard and my sure foundation is totally shaken. I am left with nothing but wishful thinking, trusting in my flimsy intuition that I got things right. That’s a lot to ask of anybody when hope in God’s Word is all you’ve got!
- Most of the beliefs omitted by the emergent church are the ones most offensive to the world. As the world changes, according to them, it appears our understanding of biblical truth must change as well. I’m not implying that everything in the Bible is odious to the world or that we should intentionally enjoy upsetting the world. However, I am confident that God’s Word is light and the world is darkness. The two sides are diametrically opposed (Jas. 4:4) and a conflict is almost always bound to occur when these two domains collide. Consider our Savior who not only taught us this, but also received the full backlash from the world based upon what He did and said! He said, “They hated me without a cause” (Jn. 15:25; cf. 17:14)? That’s why the apostle Paul could declare, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10).”The moment we shape the Bible to make it more palatable with society is the moment we’ve stopped adhering to the Bible and have ceased from giving society what they really need!
- Lastly, can I trust the Bible as it pertains to doctrine? On what grounds do I have permission to reject the clear teaching from Jesus and the biblical authors? If I crack the door even an inch, a tsunami of flexibility floods the pages of Scripture. For example, since hell is now out, why not throw away repentance as well? Okay, for the time we’ll keep repentance in since it appears to be an essential component of the Christian message, but if so, repentance implies sin. So which sins are out? Definitely homosexuality, right? But in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 homosexuality is listed the same sentence with stealing. Shouldn’t we be consistent – either they are both in or they are both out. Alright, let’s just make this easy and throw out everything that the world and my flesh finds offensive. We’ll just keep the Gospel. Jesus loves me; that feels good! Now we’re safe, right? But then I need to ask why did Jesus die in the first place? Moreover, I need to ask if the Gospel shouldn’t be thrown out altogether as well!
In my humble opinion, if I can’t stand on the Word of God there is nothing left for me to stand upon. And if God can’t communicate His Word accurately or if He so wimpy He’s leaving the final results up to my determination then He’s definitely not worthy of my worship. I’m thankful that our Creator speaks and that He speaks according to His holy character. And when He speaks on the pages of Scripture I’m thankful that I, like millions for the last two millennia, can hear from Him through a Book that is authoritative, relevant, inerrant, understandable, assuring and reliable.